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For Immediate Release, March 20, 2012

Contact: Rebecca Noblin, (907) 274-1110,

Lawsuit Seeks Plan to Recover Highly Endangered Alaska Whale

ANCHORAGE, Alaska— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service for failing to develop a recovery plan under the Endangered Species Act for the highly endangered North Pacific right whale. The North Pacific right whale is thought to be the most endangered large whale in the world, with as few as 30 individuals in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska and perhaps a few hundred in Russia’s Okhotsk Sea.

“North Pacific right whales lead a precarious existence,” said the Center’s Alaska Director Rebecca Noblin. “Without the full protections of the Endangered Species Act, including a strong recovery plan, these whales will live on only in history books.”

Under the Endangered Species Act, the National Marine Fisheries Service is required to issue and implement a plan for the conservation and recovery of the North Pacific right whale. Although the whale has been listed as endangered as a “northern right whale” since 1973 and since 2008 as a species in its own right, this critically endangered whale has no recovery plan.

“Recovery plans are essential to saving struggling species and helping them recover to the point where they no longer need to be listed under the Endangered Species Act,” said Noblin. “Studies have shown that species with recovery plans are far more likely to be on the road to recovery than those without.”

Called right whales because they were the “right whale to hunt,” North Pacific right whales numbered as many as 20,000 before the advent of commercial whaling. Today the few remaining individuals are extremely vulnerable to ship strikes, oil development and oil spills, and entanglement in fishing gear. With so few North Pacific right whales in existence, the loss of even one whale could threaten the entire population.

“There is no excuse for failing to implement a North Pacific right whale recovery plan,” said Noblin. “The Endangered Species Act does not allow government agencies to simply give up on a species in dire straits. On the contrary, the National Marine Fisheries Service has a duty to do everything it can to bring the North Pacific right whale back from the brink of extinction.”

Today’s 60-day notice of intent to sue is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act.

To read more about the Center’s work to protect right whales, read our webpage.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 350,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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